Maconchy was born in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, and grew up in the English and Irish countryside. She enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London at the age of sixteen studying under Charles Wood and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
In 1930, Maconchy married William LeFanu with whom she later had two daughters. Her first daughter, Elizabeth Anna LeFanu, was born in 1939, and her second daughter, Nicola LeFanu, was born in 1947.
Maconchy's cycle of thirteen string quartets, which span the years 1932 to 1984, are regarded by many as the peak of her musical achievements.
In 1933, Maconchy's quintet for oboe and strings won a prize in the London Daily Telegraph Chamber Music Competition, and was recorded by Helen Gaskel with the Griller Quartet soon afterwards on HMV Records.
- String Quartet No. 1 (1932/33)
- String Quartet No. 2 (1936)
- String Quartet No. 3 (1938)
- String Quartet No. 4 (1942/43)
- String Quartet No. 5 (1948)
- String Quartet No. 6 (1950)
- String Quartet No. 7 (1955)
- String Quartet No. 8 (1967)
- String Quartet No. 9 (1968)
- String Quartet No. 10 (1972)
- String Quartet No. 11 (1976)
- String Quartet No. 12 (1979)
- String Quartet No. 13 Quartetto Corto (1984)
In 1959, Maconchy chaired the Composers' Guild of Great Britain, the first woman to do so. In 1960, she was awarded the Cobbett Medal for chamber music. She was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1977, and made Dame Commander (DBE) in 1987.
- Doctor, Jennifer (2004). "Maconchy, Dame Elizabeth Violet (1907–1994)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online (Jan 2008) ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/55123.
- Greene, David Mason (1985). Petrak, Albert M., ed. Green's Biographical Encyclopedia of Composers 1. p. 1366. ISBN 9780385142786. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- "Maconchy, Dame Elizabeth (Dame Elizabeth LeFanu)". Who Was Who (online (December 2012), Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black. November 2012. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- Staines, Joe (2010). "Elizabeth Maconchy". The Rough Guide to Classical Music. Penguin. pp. 320–321. ISBN 9781405383219. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- Uglow, Jennifer S. & Maggy Hendry (1999). "Maconchy, Elizabeth". The Northeastern Dictionary of Women's Biography (3rd ed.). UPNE. pp. 347–348. ISBN 9781555534219. Retrieved 2012-12-17.
- Darrell, R.D., ed. (1936). The Gramophone Shop Encyclopedia of Recorded Music. New York. p. 278. OCLC 598224.
- "Announcement of the Order of the British Empire (Civil Division): DBE". Supplement to the London Gazette (50848). 13 June 1987. p. 6. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
- "Announcement of the Order of the British Empire (Civil Division): CBE". Supplement to the London Gazette (47102). 31 December 1976. p. 9. Retrieved 2012-12-27.
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